Backpacking Teacher

Travel, teaching and things in between. Saigon is the focus for now.

Day 31: Arco do Pino to Santiago de Compostela … 800km in 31 days

with 9 comments

Chocolate con churros is a typically Spanish breakfast snack. Donut like sticks encrusted with sugar dipped into thick dark hot chocolate. My last day was much like this favoured snack – bitter sweet.

The last day started, like so many others with a tired body wanting more sleep, zipping bags, strapping of feet and hefting of backpacks onto the back. I headed out, like so many other days, into the dark. I started off by myself but soon found myself walking through the forests with a young german guy who admitted being quite scared of the mist enveloped forests. I guess the Camino delivered me to him to make his journey a bit easier.

The mist was to remain heavy all day right until I walked into the square around the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It was so heavy I couldn’t see more than 50 metres ahead of me. When I walked under trees they rained on me as the mist so heavy it condensed on the leaves and rained from them. It was quite surreal to see the patches under trees all wet and dripping while elsewhere it was dry.

I spent most of the walk wrapped in my thoughts. Thinking back on the Camino I remembered the places I’d stayed at the people I’d met and made friends with, the meals I’d had, the sections of walk I’d enjoyed, the tough days and the joyful ones. My walk was a quiet, reflective stroll. Through it all I kept feeling that today was a good day to finish.

About an hour out of Santiago I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in weeks. We walked most of the way into town before she veered off to go to her Albergue. It was good to run into her but I was happy to walk in by myself. I enjoyed this quiet reflective mood I was in.

I wandered into the old town, down some steps and then, around the corner from the Cathedral I stopped to sit awhile. I wasn’t quite ready for the Camino to end yet. I sat there awhile watching peregrinos pass and listening to buskers play.

And then I walked around the corner to the Cathedral, walked until I was in front of it. I looked up. Then I stopped walking. 800 km. I sat on my backpack, like so many other peregrinos around me and looked up at the Cathedral. I felt no excitement or joy, I didn’t want to jump or dance, I felt no sadness, I didn’t want to cry. I felt strangely peaceful. Completely calm, at ease. I breathed in. For many moments I thought nothing, I just was. I don’t think I’ve ever been at such peace.

After awhile I looked around, took photos and videos and then admired this stupendous Cathedral. By far the most stupendous Cathedral I’ve seen, coloured no doubt by the fact that I had to walk 800km to see it 😉 I greeted a few familiar faces then wandered through the Cathedral. On wandering out of the Cathedral I saw my Italian travelling companion for many days, she was just about to head out but with an overjoyed shout we hugged each other and exchanged stories. A few other familiar faces came into focus and we all talked awhile. After saying a few painful goodbyes I headed off to the Office of Peregrinos to get my Compostela. The Latin document that certifies I have completed the pilgrimage to the resting place of the disciple James. I attended midday mass and caught up with a few other familiar faces before heading off to my accommodation.

I splurged. The night before I’d found a five star hotel located close to the Cathedral. I’d booked two nights at the Melia Aragauney. I trudged into this five star hotel tired, dirty and smelly. A beautiful little hotel decorated tastefully in a middle eastern style my body thanked me deeply for this gift. I thought it only fair after all I’d asked of it over the last 31 days. Tonight I’ll go out for dinner and drinks with my Spanish friends and, no doubt, run into others I know. The Camino is over, tonight we celebrate our fantastic achievement. We walked 800km, every single step of it.

I’m brought to mind the Proclaimer’s song “I would walk 500 miles”. Today I can say not that I would walk 500 miles but that I did walk 500 miles. I didn’t know if I could do it. Now I know.

— Posted from my phone


Written by backpackingteacher

August 1, 2009 at 3:56 am

9 Responses

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  1. Well done Mark,

    800k, I would think twice driving that distance.



    August 2, 2009 at 10:48 am

  2. Congratulations!! You did it. I have enjoyed following you across Spain, and you have motivated me so much for my Camino in September.
    Big hug for your accomplishment


    August 3, 2009 at 7:09 am

  3. Way to go! Lots of cheering from Australia! Whats next, Kilamanjaro or Everest? Take care, come home soon.
    Jen (Mum)

    Jenny Malouf ( Mum)

    August 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

  4. thanks for the uplifting comments as always Mum … Kilimanjaro sounds good …. but i like the idea of walking another 800km … there is another trail in Spain that is 825 km plus another 100km make it all up 925 km 🙂 thanks for reading the blog … will be home for Christmas for a couple of weeks


    August 8, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  5. lol … thanks for reading along Nic …. hope it was interesting


    August 8, 2009 at 2:30 pm

  6. Geat to see pictures from the Camino


    September 1, 2009 at 4:07 am

  7. Thanks .. glad you liked them


    September 1, 2009 at 11:13 am

  8. I really enjoyed reading your Camino and looking at your beautifully vivid photos. Thank you for sharing!


    September 18, 2009 at 8:59 pm

  9. thanks simon


    September 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm

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